Jordan king cancels Romania visit in Jerusalem Embassy row

Jordan's King Abdullah II canceled his scheduled visit to Romania. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019

Jordan king cancels Romania visit in Jerusalem Embassy row

  • The Jordanian and Romanian governments had been due to sign an agreement, two memorandums of understanding and a cooperation program
  • Jerusalem is the source of the historic and religious legitimacy and what affects Jerusalem infringes on Jordan’s legitimacy”

AMMAN: The Jordanian Royal Hashemite Court announced on Monday that King Abdullah II had decided to cancel a visit to Romania. 

Osama Salameh, a spokesman for the royal court, confirmed to Arab News that the trip “had been scheduled to start Monday,” but that “in solidarity with Jerusalem, and following Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s remarks expressing the intention to move her country’s embassy to Jerusalem, the king has decided not to travel to Romania.”

A royal court press release said that King Abdullah’s visit to Romania, “which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, had been planned to include meetings with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Parliament leaders.”

The king had also been scheduled to participate in the Aqaba meetings, which had been planned to be hosted by Romania in partnership with Jordan. 

The Jordanian and Romanian governments had been due to sign an agreement, two memorandums of understanding and a cooperation program, while a Jordanian-Romanian business forum had been planned to be held with the participation of private-sector representatives from the two countries.

Wafa Bani Mustafa, a veteran member of the Jordanian Parliament and a member of the International Parliament, told Arab News that the king’s decision “is an important message to all those countries that are trying to follow the isolationist decisions of the United States.” 

Bani Mustafa said that the decision of the king follows his appeal a week earlier for public support for the pressures that are being placed on Jordan regarding Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause. 

“For us in Jordan the issue of Jerusalem is not only a Palestinian issue but it is part and parcel of Jordan’s national interests.”

David Rihani, spokesperson for the Jordan Evangelical Council, said the king’s decision was a clear message to the world of his solidarity with Jerusalem to remain a holy city for all. 

“His Majesty is steadfast in his position for a just and a comprehensive peace in the region,” he said. 

Wasfi Kailani, the director of the Royal Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa, told Arab News that the Romanian move is risky for both regional peace and the Jordanian safeguarding of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites. 

“For His Majesty, as custodian of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites, nothing encourages the Israeli escalation of illegal violations on the ground more than the international community’s blessings and silence toward Israel’s flagrant desecrations of Jerusalem’s genuine identity.” 

Kailani said that moving the embassy of “a UN member state to Occupied Jerusalem does not only erode the status quo and kills peace but also it puts the credibility of the UN at risk.”

Hamadeh Farneh, a member of the Palestine National Council and a former Jordanian member of Parliament, told Arab News that Jerusalem is important to Hashemites and King Abdullah. 

“Jerusalem is the source of the historic and religious legitimacy and what affects Jerusalem infringes on Jordan’s legitimacy.” 

Faraneh said that the decision to cancel the trip to Romania is intended to “reflect the King’s anger and to ensure that countries like Romania don’t get any rewards for such decisions.”

Ahmad Awad, the director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, told Arab News that the king’s decision was in the interests of Jordan and in support of the Palestinian cause. 

“Jerusalem is occupied by Israel and this decision is a message to all that our interests and our causes are the compass to which we focus our political decisions.”

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, a member of the Islamic Waqf Council and head of the PASSIA think tank in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the decision of the government of Romania to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem represented a preemptive decision to the two-state solution, in violation of international law. 

“The government of Romania’s announcement is an attack on Palestinian national, political and religious rights that panders to the Israeli occupation narrative of Jerusalem, one that is strongly rejected by the international community. The king of Jordan’s decision to cancel his visit is not only in line with international consensus but also a clear message that Jerusalem is a red line.”

Khalil Atiyeh, one of the most popular members of the Jordanian Parliament, told Arab News that the King’s move is part of a continuous royal interest in Jerusalem. 

“The decision as stated by the prime minister of Romania is refused in Jordan by the King, the government and the people. We are proud of the royal decisions and we stand behind the king as he exposes the Zionist entity.”

Fawzi Samhouri, a Jordanian human rights activist, told Arab News that the decision by the king is a practical translation of his statement in Zarqa that Jerusalem is a red line and that he will never agree to any decision that affects Jerusalem as the capital of the independent Palestinian state. 

“This decision shows the king as a role model for how a person’s words and deeds are in sync with each other.”

Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

An Asian domestic worker walks her employer's dog in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019

Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

  • Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.